Aztec and Maya Apocalypses
Old World Tales of Doom in a New World Setting
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
252 Pages | 6 x 9 | 28 b&w illus., 5 tables
The Apocalypse and Christian eschatology played an important role in the conversion of the Indigenous population and often appeared in the texts and sermons composed for their consumption. Through these writings from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century—priests’ “official” texts and Indigenous authors’ rendering of them—Mark Z. Christensen traces Maya and Nahua influences, both stylistic and substantive, while documenting how extensively Old World content and meaning were absorbed into Indigenous texts. Visions of world endings and beginnings were not new to the Indigenous cultures of America. Christensen shows how and why certain formulations, such as the Fifteen Signs of Doomsday, found receptive audiences among the Maya and the Aztec, with religious ramifications extending to the present day.
These translated texts provide the opportunity to see firsthand the negotiations that ecclesiastics and Indigenous people engaged in when composing their eschatological treatises. With their insights into how various ecclesiastics, Nahuas, and Mayas preached, and even understood, Catholicism, they offer a uniquely detailed, deeply informed perspective on the process of forming colonial religion.
“Christensen takes readers on an expertly guided tour through the frightful yet fascinating hellscapes mapped out in the writings of both churchmen and Indigenous authors, tracking narratives and motifs back to their often-obscure Old World and, in some cases, Indigenous precursors.”—Louise M. Burkhart, coauthor of Painted Words: Nahua Catholicism, Politics, and Memory in the Atzaqualco Pictorial Catechism
“Mark Christensen brings an impressive skill set to a fascinating topic, combining expertise on Indigenous languages and cosmologies with a deep knowledge of church history and doctrine.”—Kevin Terraciano, author of Codex Sierra: A Nahuatl-Mixtec Book of Accounts from Colonial Mexico